I. THE INITIAL COVENANT
A. (Good morning brothers and sisters. I will be referring to a number of
scriptures. Some of you may want to follow along as I read. This evening,
I think starting a 7 pm, the movie "The Ten Commandments" will be shown on
TV. The movie leaves out a couple of very important parts of the story. For
example, before Moses ever goes up on the Mount to receive the commandments
written by the finger of the Lord, the people had already received these
commandments directly from the Lord's voice out of a cloud around the mountian.
It was a terrifying experience for these people. So terrifying, in fact,
that they commission Moses to go by himself up the mountian and leave them
out of it (See Deuteronomy 5: 22-27). But before Moses goes up, the most
important part of the story happens . Please read with me in Exodus chapter
Exodus 24:4-8 -- And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put [it] in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled [it] on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.
B. So, once the Children of Israel made a promise to keep the Ten Commandments, Moses--acting on behalf of Jehovah--sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the people as a token of the covenant that the Lord had made with the Children of Israel. The promise and the blood together signified the two-way nature of the covenant--man to God and God to man. So then, Moses went up, got the tablets, and came back down to an orgy. Now we understand why he was so mad. It wasn't just that the the Children of Israel were engaged in sinful behavior, but that they had broken the covenant they had made to keep the commandments. They had just barely promised not to make images or commit adultery, but that is precisely what they did as soon as Moses turned his back.
C. But, let us return for a moment to the covenant the Children of Israel had made with Jehovah. They made a promise to keep the commandments and Moses--acting in behalf of the Jehovah--sprinkled blood to symbolize the Lord's accpetance of the covenant. Please hold that thought while we look at the Sacrament Prayers in DC 20:77&79. About three-fourths of the way down in the prayer over the bread we see the phrase, ". . . and keep his commandments which he has given them . . ." Now, let us look at the prayer over the water. We do not see any mention of keeping the commandments. Instead, we are reminded that Christ's blood was shed for us. Just as the Children of Israel had to first promise to keep the commandments before the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on them, so too, must we promise to keep the commandments, before we are served with the token of Christ's Atoning Blood. Just a few minutes ago, these young Priesthood holders acted in the same way Moses did. That is, this morning they gave all of us an opportunity to promise to keep the commandments by passing to us the bread. When we partake of the bread we renew our promise to keep all the commandments. And like Moses, these young Priesthood holders represent Christ making His promise to us, by passing the water to us. Just as the promise and the sacrificial blood in Moses' day represented the covenant between Jehovah and his people, so does the bread and water in the Sacrament in our day represent the same covenant. What a wonderful opportunity we have to partake of the sacrament, and what an awesome responsibility these young Priesthood holders have to be like Moses and represent the Lord to us.
II. CONTINUING THE COVENANT
A. After the Children of Israel made their promise and Moses sprinkled the blood, the covenant was fixed. Jehovah thought it would be a good idea, however, if the Children of Israel could renew this covenant on a periodic basis. Jehovah instituted through Moses a yearly day of fasting to renew this covenant. On this day, the High Priest would perform certain rituals in the tabernacle. This fast day was known as the Day of Atonement.
B. Let me briefly describe these rituals. (See the Bible Dictionary in the LDS edition of the Bible, under the heading of Fasts, page 671.) They can be divided into major three stages: first, selecting 5 animals and preparing 2 of them for sacrifice; second, sacrificing the two animals, sprinkling their blood at various places in the tabernacle, and setting one animal free; and third, making a burnt offering of the remaining two animals.
C. To begin the first stage, High Priest clothed himself in while linen. He then selected a bullock (castrated ox; steer) and a ram for him and his family, and two he-goats and a ram for the congregation of Israel. The two rams he left aside for the burnt offering to come later. He cast lots over the two he-goat to determine which would be sacrificed and which would be set free. The he-goat that was to live was then set aside. The remaining he-goat and the bullock were then made ready to be sacrificed as a sin offering--the he-goat for the congregation of Israel and the bullock for the High Priest and his family.
D. The second stage of the Day of Atonement ritual proceeded in three phases. One phase was conducted in each of the three areas of the Tabernacle, namely, in the Holy of Holies, in the Holy Place, and in the Outer Courtyard. The Tabernacle itself was a large rectangle tent with no roof, just walls. Inside the Tabernacle there was a smaller tent (with a roof) divided into two rooms. The Holy of Holies was the back room of the smaller tent and the Holy Place was the front room of the smaller tent. The area around the small tent was the Outer Courtyard.. Each of these three areas had their own altars. Inside the Holy of Holies the altar was the Ark of the Covenant (a box where the tablets that contained the Ten Commandments were kept), the lid of which was called the Mercy Seat. In the Holy Place the altar was called the Altar of Incense. And in the Outer Courtyard, the altar was called the Altar of Sacrifice. For our purposes today, we just need to remember that there were three places inside the Tabernacle, each with their own altar.
E. No one was allowed inside the Tabernacle at all while the High Priest performed these rituals. The first phase began with the High Priest sacrificing the bullock as the sin offering for him and his family. He sprinkled the blood of the bullock once on the east side of the Mercy Seat and seven times in front of the Mercy Seat. Next the High Priest sacrificed the he-goat as a sin offering for the Children of Israel and similarly sprinkled its blood once on the east side of and seven times in front of the Mercy Seat. Notice that the blood of the two animals were, in the end, mixed together.
F. The second phase took place in the Holy Place. The High Priest came out of the Holy of Holies (the back room) into the front room (the Holy Place). This time the ritual was performed on the Altar of Incense. Again the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the bullock once and seven times for himself and his family, and then sprinkled the blood of the he-goat once and seven times for the Children of Israel. Again, notice that the blood of the two animals were, in the end, mixed together.
G. In the third phase, the High Priest left the small tent and entered the Outer Courtyard. That same sprinkling of blood took place before before the Altar of Burnt Offerings. Again, the blood of the bullock for the Priest and his family was mixed with the blood of the he-goat for the Children of Israel. When the Priest was finished sprinkling the blood, he brought the other he-goat that was left alive before the Altar of Burnt Offerings. The High Priest confessed all the sins of the people of Israel over this goat. When the High Priest was finished, the goat was sent into the wilderness to bear away the people's iniquities into a solitary land. This concluded the second major stage of rituals.
H. The third and final stage of the Day of Atonement rituals began began when the High Priest removed his blood stained linen garments, bathed, and then put on his official priestly garments. At this point, he took the two rams (one for him and his family, and one for the people) and made of them burnt offerings. This was done in the Outer Courtyard on the Altar of Sacrifice.
III. THE ATONEMENT
A. The Day of Atonement ritual--as just described--was given to the Children of Israel to point them toward the Atonement that was to be wrought by Savior at the the meridian of time. That ancient ritual was patterned after how Christ's Atonement would be. It was not just symbolic in a rough, crude manner, but down to many of its details. I believe that by comparing that ancient ritual to Christ's Atonement we will gain insight into that Great and Last Sacrifice.
B. Just as the High Priest was alone in the Tabernacle during the Day of Atonement, so too, was Christ alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke tells us that as Christ entered the Garden he told his disciples to "Pray that ye enter not into temptation," and then withdrew from them about a stone's cast (Luke 22:40-41). That this was a work he did by himself is confirmed in a revelation given in John Johnson's Hiram, Ohio farmhouse in 1831, "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me." (DC 133:50)
C. The High Priest also sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat covered the tablets upon which was written The Law. This is symbolic of the doctrine that though Christ's blood (the mercy or grace of the atonement) the effects of transgressing the law are covered.
D. The High Priest repeated the blood sprinkling three times, in the Holy of Holies, in the Holy Place, and in the Outer Courtyard. So too, did Christ pray three times in the Garden of Gethsemene.
E. The High Priest took the blood of two animals into the tabernacle as an offering: a bullock for himself and a goat for the congregation. I view the blood of the bullock as symbolic of Christ's blood, and the blood of the goat as symbolic of our blood. Human blood is the result of the Fall of Adam, and represents our fallen state. To say we have blood on our hands or garments is a way of saying that we have sinned. For example, Alma warns his people,
Alma 5:22 -- And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?
Jacob also uses this allusion,
Jacob 1:19 -- And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
F. The High Priest mingled the blood of the bullock and the goat. The blood of both were required for the ritual. So too, was our blood (meaning our sins) mingled with Christ's blood during the Atonement. His garments were stained with our sins just as much as they were stained with the blood that came from every one of His pores. He reminds us of this in the same revelation given in John Johnson's farmhouse in Hiram, Ohio. Please turn to DC 133,
D&C 133:46-51 - And it shall be said: Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments; yea, from the regions which are not known, clothed in his glorious apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness, mighty to save. And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat. And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my rainment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.
When Christ comes the second time, we will see him wear clothes that were stained red by our sins.
A. The High Priest in the Tabernacle confessed the sins of the Children of Israel over a goat, and then sent the goat into the wilderness, symbolically taking the sins of the people away. So, too, must we confess our sins and cast them away, never to be found again. We read in D&C 58:43 - "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins--behold, he will confess them and forsake them."
B. With the promise of forgiveness, comes a warning.
D&C 19:15-19 -- Therefore I command you to repent--repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore--how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink--Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
C. The ancient Hebrew ritual of the Day of Atonement is clearly symbolic of Christ's Atonement. The Apostle Paul, in chapter 9 of his letter to the Hebrews, compares the Hebrew Day of Atonement to Christ's atonement. Let us start reading in verse 11.
Hebrews 9:11-15 -- But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions [that were] under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
D. It is my prayer we will each take advantage of this redemption for our transgressions through repentance, so that we will receive the promised eternal inheritance.
E. [Only if there is enough time.] In coming to understand the atonement, we can understand why Isaiah would call His name Wonderful. Let us read how Joseph Smith felt about the atonement in DC 128.
D&C 128:23 -- Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers! (compare Job 38:4-7)
F. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.